Within five minutes of walking in to Umut 2000 – a buzzy, wonderfully smoky Turkish restaurant in Dalston – wafts of meat, fish and charcoal are fully soaked into your skin. A long silver grill sizzles along the back wall of the room, and around it customers sit at simple wooden tables, savouring the scent. The atmosphere is relaxed, but make no mistake: Umut 2000 is absolutely serious about food. This is the kind of place where if you order the sea bream you are politely told to expect to wait half an hour, because they’ll chargrill the thing properly. It’s also the kind of place where the staff live and breathe the menu: when I ask my waitress for a recommendation, she points to the lamb chops with the unwavering conviction of a woman who really, really loves them.
I loved them too. So tender I actually gasped mid-mouthful, these chops were the stars of my meal – hot and perfectly pink with an edge of crispy, spitting fat. Very nearly as good was the ‘tuvuk sis’ chicken. Banish all thoughts of that boring, stringy stuff you avoid at kebab shops: at Umut 2000, the chicken is succulent, rich with marinade and streaked with charcoal from the grill. Everything comes with nutty brown rice, salad and a lovely thin green pepper; but order the sweet, sharp kisir salad to go with it – it’s a gorgeous mess of onion, parsley and flaked red pepper.
Not everything was fantastic. ‘Sigari boregi’ – tubes of filo pastry filled with cheese – came thick and doughey, and the grilled aubergine salad was a little oily. But Umut 2000 is well out of the ordinary. Eating Turkish in Dalston really doesn’t get much better than this.